Tuesday, May 31, 2011


CSEA Local 1000 AFSCME AFL-CIO New York's Leading Union

Tax Cap Will Endanger the Ability to Deliver Services

Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders announced that they have a deal on the parameters of a property tax cap. The agreement would establish a two percent property tax cap on counties, cities, towns, villages, fire districts, special districts, and school districts outside New York City.

Call your Assembly member and Senator at 1-877-255-9417 and tell them that tax caps do nothing to change the rising costs facing local governments. A tax cap will only make it harder to provide the services people depend on.

This bill will inevitably jeopardize the ability of local governments to deliver the essential public services people rely on and have come to expect such as public safety, emergency response, local road maintenance, snow removal, clean water, sewer services county health care and nursing homes, municipal waste and garbage disposal, libraries, parks, day care programs and a quality education for our children.

Imposing a property tax cap today will surely mean cuts in programs and services tomorrow.

Pennies for Millionaires

CSEA kicked off the “Pennies for Millionaires Campaign” to heighten awareness of the millionaire’s tax proposed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The message is that Governor Cuomo is picking our pockets to give tax breaks to millionaires who are the same ones who contributed to his political campaign. Each region will have jugs available in the region headquarters to collect pennies to give to Governor Cuomo so he doesn’t have to pick our pockets anymore.

Hochul Wins in Surprise Victory

Democrat Kathy Hochul pulled out a victory in the special election for the House seat in the predominantly Republican 26th Congressional District. This sent a strong message to the Republican Congress that the middle class will not stand for the continued assault on Medicare and Social Security.  Hochul will be sworn in tomorrow.

Senate Votes Down Paul Ryan's Budget

In the 57-40 vote, five Republicans joined every Democrat to vote down the House budget plan that included drastic cuts to the Medicaid program and a plan to privatize Medicare.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Courtesy of the DenverPost.Com
Rochester, N.Y.--  We at the Voice Reporter have a pop quiz for you. What would our state look like under Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) radical, Tea Party-inspired budget?

A. A typical 65-year-old New Yorker would spend $6,518.20 more per year out of pocket for health care by 2022 because Medicare’s promise would be replaced with underfunded vouchers. The national average is a $6,359 increase.

B. At least 305,945 New York residents would lose Medicaid health care and at least 15 million nationally.

C. $4.2 trillion in new tax cuts would be handed out mostly to corporations and the rich.

D. All of the above.

If you answered D, all of the above, you’re right. The House Republican budget would do all of those things. All but four House Republicans voted for this radical proposal. This is mind-boggling.

In retrospect, we know that the point here is kinda moot because this bill was destined to fail.  However, it does give us a glimpse into the minds and hearts of the radical lawmakers who devise the House Republican agenda.

A "Dead Plan Walking" from day one

From the get-go, we at the Voice Reporter have been calling the Ryan Plan a "Dead Plan Walking." And just yesterday, 40 Senate Republicans voted to give even more tax cuts to Wall Street and the wealthy and pay for them by cutting deeply into services for seniors, children and low and middle income working families.

Every legitimate poll proves that this vision for America is a losing strategy-- one that our nation does not agree with.  House Republicans are still trying to short-circuit any recovery by attacking the elderly, working families and the poor. To put it mildly, they have done absolutely zero when it comes to job creation. The only thing the GOP has done is to focus on fighting a culture war-- taking away a women's right to choose, attacking worker rights, devaluing LGBT Americans, and pummeling the disenfranchised at every possible opportunity.

And at the same time, they want to eliminate the tax responsibility for the richest Americans and convince everyone that a reduction in vital public services is somehow in every one's best interest.

Let Tuesday's NY 26th Congressional District race be a wake up call for the nation-- the majority of Americans do not want Congress to fool around with Medicare and Social Security, period.

Much has been made of why and how the local Republicans lost this race-- everyone is pointing fingers and blaming each other. The fact is, this race was one of the most poorly run Republican campaigns ever launched in the history of New York State politics-- precisely because the GOP could never win on the issues that matter to the average, everyday working people of Western New York.  When you throw in complete incompetence by campaign staffers, you have a losing formula while the whole nation watched it unfold.

Let's re-focus the national debate back to jobs

At a time when the White House should be attempting to reduce the nation’s stubbornly high unemployment rate and speed up the glacier-paced economic recovery by creating a new stimulus plan, Mr. Obama is instead trying to outbid Ryan and his Republican cohorts in a game of deficit reduction poker.

As a result, things that would help reduce the jobless rate and improve prospects for the working class, like spending on infrastructure, enhanced job training, and more support for higher education are off the table.  Instead, both parties are now obsessed with the national debt rather than the mounting debt middle-class families are accumulating as they watch the value of their homes and their real wages fall and the cost of gas, college, and other staples rise.  We need to be talking about the "real vision" for America-- not just responding to the irrational GOP proposals.

When we look back on what has transpired since the GOP took over the House in January, it's a damn shame that we even acknowledge that these initiatives like the Ryan Plan can be described as "starting points" to discuss and debate America’s future. The simple truth is the GOP is out of touch with mainstream America. This is not partisan spin. These are just the facts.

-Ove Overmyer
Mr. Overmyer takes ownership of this commentary.  This article does not reflect the views of CSEA as an organization.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Western New York--  Kathy Hochul has claimed victory in New York's 26th Congressional District. It's a result that would have surprised local observers several weeks ago, and one that has captured the attention of political minds around the nation.

Despite the $2.36 million spent by groups like Karl Rove's American Crossroads and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to keep the district red and the $60 per vote Conservative Republican candidate Jane Corwin spent herself, Hochul secured a clear victory in a traditionally Republican district.  Hochul becomes the fourth Democrat to represent the district since 1857.
Hochul becomes the fourth Democrat to represent the districtsince 1857.

Hochul becomes the fourth Democrat to represent the districtsince 1857.
Hochul, speaking at her headquarters at a UAW union hall in Amherst last night after her victory, said she received a gracious phone call from Jane Corwin shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday, conceding the race.

Hochul openly thanked her union supporters and the Working Families Party.  She touched on a key issue in her victory by stating, "I look forward to balancing the budget the right way and not on the backs of our seniors!" Hochul said to rousing applause.

The issue of Medicare dominated the race down the stretch, as both outside liberal and conservative groups poured millions into the race.

Many of the congratulations Hochul received Tuesday night came from Democrat heavyweights Kirsten Gillibrand, Charles Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and the chair of the DNC Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.  They all mentioned the contentious issue of Medicare in their public repsonses.

Local labor got out the vote for Hochul

This victory has sent a clear message to those in Washington who want to trample over working families and the elderly by dismantling Medicare and privatizing Social Security.  And at the same time, the GOP agenda wants to give tax breaks to the richest Americans while facilitating a class war lodged between the poor and middle class-- commonly known as the "race to the bottom." 

The WNY Area Labor Federation and Rochester Genesee Valley ALF helped coordinate field activities with affiliated Locals in getting out labor's vote through phone calls, labor walks, work site flyers and local union mail. The following is a breakdown of activities by the numbers:

• 25,000 piece mailing to union households
• 30,000 phone calls (ID & GOTV)
• 50,000 robo calls
• 20,000 doors hit in walks (3 labor walks, including GOTV walks leading up to Election Day)
• 30,000 local union letters & flyers to members

What does it all mean?

Yesterday's special congressional election in our area may not be the start of a national trend, but it marks the first time the Democrats are on the offensive since they lost control of the House of Representatives last year.

In the last few special elections, Democrats did fairly well, but only one of those outcomes predicted a trend. November 2009 saw a Democrat win the special election in New York's 23rd Congressional District because a third party conservative candidate split the Republican vote.

In the 2010 mid-terms, a horrible outcome for Democrats, the party in power had a very hard time running on their accomplishments. Health care and the overhaul of Wall Street regulation were seen by many as too much of an intrusion of the government into the economy, still struggling from near collapse in 2008.

The primary change six months on is the strong Republican support for Ryan's Medicare plan. But like the president's health reform plan, opposition to the changes is stronger than support.  The GOP believes they know what's best for the American people-- but voters are not buying it one bit as evidenced by last night's trouncing in New York's 26th Congressional District.

The election last night also showed that Democrats have the keys to drive the budget debate and play offense in 2012.  However, progressive folks may have a difficult time helping the Democrat's hold on to the Senate majority with regard to the Citizens United v. FEC decision. With only a six seat majority, the Democrats have 23 seats to defend against the Republicans 10 in the 2012 elections.

The implications of Hochul's upset victory extend to Senate races in battleground states and red states across the country. The results provide clear evidence that Democratic senators and Senate candidates will be able to play offense across the country by remaining focused on the Republican effort to end Medicare and force seniors to pay thousands more for health care costs.  Republican lawmakers in the Senate have a tough decision to make-- go on record in support of the Ryan Plan and at the same time alienate over 75 percent of the electorate.

Democrats believe the political fallout from Rep. Paul Ryan’s controversial budget proposal was evident in their victory in last night’s results-- and later today they hope a Senate vote on Ryan’s proposal will cause even more problems for Republicans up for re-election next year.

It is incumbent on working families to continue to work hard and develop postive relationships with our elected officials.  Hochul's election also proves that people power can beat big money if we remain focused and organized.  This is progress. The real winners here are the voters and residents of the 26th District in New York.

And just as many House Democrats lost their seats because of their votes for health reform  last election cycle, all but four House Republicans who voted for the Ryan Plan may fear that that vote could come back to haunt them as the Democrats have found solid footing on issues that resonate with the majority of American voters.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Millionaire’s Tax Legislation Introduced in Assembly

The battle over the millionaire’s tax was reinvigorated this week as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver introduced a bill (A. 7802) that would extend the tax until the end of 2012. Silver’s bill would be a true millionaire’s tax, as it would only apply to those who earn over $1 million a year.

The tax would add billions of dollars in tax revenues for the state and help to restore some of the devastating cuts for mental health, health care, education, and programs for the elderly.

Please call the Governor and your state senator at 1-877-255-9417 and ask them to support the millionaire’s tax.

Press Reports on New Pension Tier

Less than two years after the creation of Tier V, it was reported this week that Governor Cuomo will propose yet another pension tier. According to reports, the new tier will increase the retirement age to 65, early retirement options will be eliminated, and new employees will pay twice as much toward their pensions. This new tier will not produce any immediate savings and will result in a less secure retirement.

President Danny Donohue responded to this attack by saying, “No one should believe this is a necessary action - a state budget that relied on cuts alone while giving tax breaks to millionaires is out of whack with good management."

Layoffs Begin in Unified Court System

The effects of Governor Cuomo’s austerity budget are beginning to appear, as 600 employees of the state’s Unified Court System will be laid off or displaced. Reductions in staff will lead to shorter court hours, longer waits, and a decline in the quality of the court system.

Voters Overwhelmingly Support School Budgets

Voters statewide approved over 93% of local school budgets this week, nearly all of which called for significant reductions in staff and services. This shows that middle class families are willing to roll up their sleeves in order to pay for vital public programs. It is now its time for millionaires to do the same.

CSEA Voice Reporter Back in Business

The Voice Reporter was on hiatus for the past six days.  We appreciate all your inquiries about our lack of content during the past week-- we will try to keep up with all the business at hand to give you the resources and tools you need to succeed in work and life.  Rest assured, we will continue to provide you with the most updated news and information plus biting commentary about your working world.  We are dedicated to bring to our members and to our audience a voice for average working Americans.  We will not allow others to define us.  Thank you for your readership!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Image from Nerdreactor.com
Webster, N.Y.--  The Voice Reporter recently learned that one of our Units of CSEA Local 828, the Town of Webster Unit 7411, were asked to help Hollywood make a big time blockbuster summertime movie.  Below you will find a letter that was sent to the Webster Hearld by Town of Webster Highway Superintendent Joe Herbst.

Here is the letter:


Webster, N.Y.--  Former Webster resident Peter Brown remembers growing up in town listening to the plow trucks run the roads through the winter season here. That unique sound etched in his memory came to surface decades later while working as “supervising sound production editor” for the company responsible for the sounds in the newly released movie “Fast Five”. Peter came home for Christmas and we were able to coordinate and achieve the sounds he had remembered. A Webster Highway plow truck actually produced the sound of the vault being dragged through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Though masked at times by all the other action, the unique sound is recognized throughout the ten minute vault scene.

Sights and sounds we take for granted here in the snow producing environment are unique in this fashion because they are not available or indicative to southern or western states, not to mention to Brazil.

Winter can seem harsh, more so towards the tail end of it. As dismal as it may seem to some, it is tolerable when compared to the 230+ tornadoes and devastation left behind just a couple weeks ago in the states below us. Winter is tame when compared to the earthquakes and tsunami that annihilated a portion of Japan or the hurricanes that taunt the south and east on a regular seasonal basis. Our snow melts away with little evidence and leaves along with that season.

It took a childhood wintertime memory to connect the east coast to west coast, with Webster being the link. Sights, sounds and memories are what we all carry with us from day to day and into our lifetime when growing up in an exceptional town like Webster.


Photo:  Ove Overmyer
Albany, N.Y.--  As promised, Assembly Democrats announced legislation that would continue the higher income-tax bracket for millionaires through the calendar year 2012-- after they were unsuccessful in getting the continuation in the state budget battle back in March.

The bill (A.7802) was introduced yesterday by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, on the same day that voters headed to the polls to vote on their local school budgets. The measure faces little chance of passage into law, however. Senate Republicans have ruled out keeping the tax, as has Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  Theatrics aside, the bill may be a bargaining chip for other decisions to be made before this legislative session is over in June.

The legislation would prevent the lowering of the current tax bracket for the wealthy, which is set to expire at year’s end. The bill would keep the tax for just millionaires; the current law, adopted in 2009, applied to people who make more than $250,000 a year. It would require at least 30 percent of the revenue-- which is roughly $4 billion a year-- to go to fund schools, which were cut by $1.5 billion in this year’s budget.

“Quite simply, this is a moral imperative. We should not give a special handout to multi-millionaires and billionaires while our children’s educational are in jeopardy,” Silver said in a statement.

“This legislation not only ensures that millionaires and multi-millionaires remain in their current tax bracket until 2013, it also makes certain that a large portion of their contribution goes directly to our schools.”

The bill would keep the current top tax rate of 8.97 percent through 2012.

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, Rockland County, last week introduced Sen. John Bonacic’s bill that would keep the millionaire’s tax permanently and use some of the revenue to fund a program that would tie property taxes to household income, called the circuit breaker.


Town of Greece Supervisor John Auberger reads a proclamation honoring
CSEA members Dan O'Connell and Ron Bandemer on May 17, 2011.
photo:  Bess Watts
Greece, N.Y.--  On May 16, Town of Greece Supervisor John Auberger presented a proclamation to two Highway Department workers who happened to save an elderly man's life two months ago.

On a weekend day last March, Ron Bandemer heard cries for help near the highway storage facilities.  They were coming from a man who somehow found himself in the middle of a fenced-in construction site up to his neck in mud.  The man was just clinging to a post, hanging on to dear life.

Bandemer immediately called co-worker Dan O'Connell, who held on the man until emergency personnel arrived on the scene.  Then, the two CSEA members helped the first responders pull the man to safety.

"Far too frequently, public employees are painted with a negative brush and blamed for all that is wrong throughout the state, " commented Flo Tripi, CSEA WNY Region President.  She added, "Nothing could be further from the truth.  We never hesitate to go the extra mile.  In this case, a man is alive today because of our members efforts."

The man who got stuck, who is in his 80's, was searching for a shortcut to the library.  Authorities still do not know how the man got into the construction site, which was heavily secured.  The pit at the construction site has since been filled in and all the fencing has been repaired near the site.

Town of Greece Unit 7413 members Dan O'Connell and Ron Bandemer 
flank Local 828 President  Bess Watts after they received their proclamations of appreciation.  photo:  Cris Zaffuto


Rochester, N.Y.--  The New York State AFL-CIO has endorsed Kathy Hochul (D) for Congress in a special election to fill the vacated Chris Lee (R) seat in Western NY.

Kathy Hochul supports working families in fighting to protect Medicare, creating jobs and sustainable communities. As this race continues to receive unprecented national attention, we need to make sure that corporate special interests helping to fund her opponents' campaigns are shown the door in upstate New York. Not in our house.  The WNY ALF and RGV ALF have been working with locals to phone, leaflet and educate members in CD 26 about the importance of getting out to vote in this race.

Your help is needed! The following is a listing of upcoming labor walks and Election Day locations in the district. If you have locals or members in the region that can volunteer some time, it would be greatly appreciated. Local details are below:


When: Saturday, May 21, 2011
Time:  9:30 AM
Where:  776 Stone Rd., Rochester, New York 14616
For additional info, contact the RGV ALF at (585) 263-2650

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


photo:  Bess Watts
Webster, N.Y.-- On May 16, the CSEA Monroe County Local 828 Executive Board and the Local 828 Scholarship Committee hosted a Scholarship Award Dinner for local students and their families at Finn Park Lodge in Webster, N.Y. To view photographs of the event, you can go here to our Flickr photostream.  Nearly 100 CSEA members and their loved ones attended the banquet.

The 2011 George M. Growney Scholarship Awards began in 1993. Every year since then, CSEA Local 828 has cumulatively awarded over $100,000.00 in scholarship prize money to assist our area's working families. In 1994, the Monroe County Employees Unit 7400, the largest Unit in the Local, created their own scholarship program and has distributed more than $20,000.00.

Bess Watts congratulates Jenna
DiRaimo on her award.
photo:  Sue Trottier
CSEA Local 828 is comprised of 21 Units throughout the Monroe County area, and represents nearly 3,500 workers.  Bess Watts, President of Local 828, and Cris Zaffuto, Unit President for the Monroe County Employees, doled out the prize money to the deserving students.  Flo Tripi, WNY Region 6 President, was also in attendance.

And new this year, the City of Rochester Library Workers Unit 7420 created the Jane McManus Scholarship fund, however no applicants met the minimum standard qualifications. This $200 annual award will roll over to 2012.

Mr. Growney was a long time labor leader and activist who was employed as a probation officer with Monroe County. He served as local president for nearly two decades before his retirement in 1995. George had a passion for kids to succeed, and would be proud that his union brothers and sisters have carried on his legacy of love and commitment to youth. George M. Growney died on August 10, 1997. The scholarship program was named in his honor the following year after his death.

The scholarship is open to graduating high school seniors and first year college or vocational students whose parents or caregivers are members or agency shop fee payers of Monroe County Local 828.

The scholarship committee worked very hard to review many detailed entries again this year. Scholarships applicants were judged on academic achievement, a written essay, financial need and potential.

The 2nd Year $1000 winners are:

Ethan Harding, Monroe Community College
Matthew Stevens, Niagara University
Andrew Zielinski, Clarkson University

The 1st Year $1000 winners are:

Olivia Linden, Avon Central School
Matthew McGinnis, Caledonia-Mumford High School
Kiernan Smith, Rush Henrietta High School
Nicholas Trottier, Webster Thomas High School

The 1st Year $500 winners are:

Andrea Chevalier, Webster Schroeder High School
Jenna DiRaimo, Eastridge High School
Daniel Fedison, Greece Athena High School
Emily Kinch, Webster Schroeder High School
Zachary Lamb, Webster Thomas High School

Monday, May 16, 2011


Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue on the Cuomo administration's plans to seek Tier VI pension changes:

Albany, N.Y.-- "It is very clear from the Cuomo administration's leaks about plans to seek Tier VI pension changes for public employees that the governor does not care about the impact of his policies on working people.

The governor is engaging in political grandstanding to impress his millionaire friends at the expense of working people and the services they provide to the people of New York."


Repost May 16, 2011
The Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo will soon announce a proposal for a new, less generous pension system for future state, local and school employees that is designed to save taxpayers $93 billion over 30 years, according to two officials briefed on the plan.

If approved by the Legislature, the proposal would increase the retirement age to 65 for all public employees hired after the law was passed. It would also end early retirement, force employees to pay twice as much toward their pension, and end the "padding" of pensions through overtime pay, sick time and other means.

Current employees and retirees wouldn't be affected. New York City has a separate pension fund and city officials are considering their own pension reforms.

The two officials spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because Cuomo hadn't yet announced the legislative proposal.

A Cuomo spokesman declined to comment.

"There's a lot of mythology that there are gold-plated retirements out there," Stephen Madarasz, spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association union, said Friday. He said the average pension for a CSEA retiree is $14,000 a year.

Madarasz said the governor's task force that broadly recommended a new tier in March ignores "the shared sacrifice already shouldered by public employees."

Given already implemented pension-reform plans, "there are no immediate savings to be gained" though another set of reforms, CSEA stated in March.

A set of reforms, known as Tier V, was passed by the Legislature in 2009 under Gov. David Paterson with union leaders' support. The plan is projected to save $38 billion over the next 30 years.

Cuomo's Tier VI for public workers outside New York City would:

— Raise the minimum age of retirement to 65. Retirement age is now 62 for most employees and 57 for teachers. Early retirement, now allowed at 55 years old with a 38 percent penalty, would end.

— Require workers to put in 12 years before they qualify for a pension. Employees are now "vested" after 10 years.

— Require new employees to pay twice as much toward their pension plan.

— End the practice of "padding" a pension using overtime pay late in service, unused vacation and certain sick leave.

— Cap pensions for the highest paid state employees — physicians at state teaching hospitals, CEOs of public authorities and utilities among them — based on the governor's $179,000 salary. Many of those employees earn far more.

— Eliminate a "multiplier" that boosts a pension after 20 years and 25 years of service.

The proposal doesn't replace the traditional public pension with a 401(k) retirement plan common in the private sector, where employees pay far more or all of the contributions.

The Cuomo administration said government contributions to pensions rose as many as 20 times since 2001 for teachers, government workers, police and firefighters.

Suffolk County Executive Steven Levy, who has led the fight for pension reform among counties, recently said now is the time for governments to trade in pensions for 401(k) plans. He has said generous public pensions are unaffordable to taxpayers.

—Copyright 2011 Associated

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- You hear it all the time coming from the right, variation after variation on a core belief: if you tax rich people it kills jobs. You hear about "job-killing tax hikes," or that "taxing the rich hurts jobs." It is standard Republican talking points that date back to the Ronald Reagan days. So, the bigger question is do we really depend on the rich to create jobs for America? Or, do jobs emerge when we create demand and pass laws to balance the marketplace and regulate accordingly?

This is not exactly an ideological or a philosophical rhetorical argument. This belief is either fact or fiction. It can be proven or disproved by numbers, measuring and science, and that's exactly what objective observers should be doing instead of taking the word of right wing "think tanks" and empty-headed pundits.

Click on image for a larger view
 For starters, here is a recent typical example of a conservative article titled, "Obama Touts Job-Killing Tax Plan," written by a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth.

In part, the article said:

"Some people, in their pursuit of profit, benefit their fellow humans by creating new or better goods and services, and then by employing others. We call such people entrepreneurs and productive workers.  Others are parasites who suck the blood and energy away from the productive. Such people are most often found in government.  Perhaps the most vivid description of what happens to a society where the parasites become so numerous and powerful that they destroy their productive hosts is Ayn Rand’s classic novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

The very idea of producers and parasites

The idea that there are producers and parasites as expressed in the example above has become a core philosophy of today's conservatives. They exclaim that wealthy people produce and are rich because they are the talented ones and can produce. The rest of us are parasites who suck the blood and energy from the productive rich, by taxing them.

In this belief system, working Americans are basically just "the help" who are otherwise a burden on those with the most wealth-- we tax the producers to pay for our "entitlements." We take money from the producers through taxes, which are redistributed to the parasites. They repeat the slogan, "Taxes are theft," and take the "money we earned" by "force." This is just nonsense, but nonetheless the way they see the world.

The most visible culprit spouting this mentality is Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner. He echoed this core philosophy of producers and parasites, recently stating:

"I believe raising taxes on the very people that we expect to reinvest in our economy and to hire people is the wrong idea,” he said. “For those people to give that money to the government…means it won't get reinvested in our economy at a time when we’re trying to create jobs.”

So is it true? Are the the wealthy responsible for job creation? We at the Voice Reporter believe that the conservative producer and parasite anti-tax philosophy is fundamentally flawed and at odds with the concepts of a functional democracy. To take that leap of faith and say the rich are the ones who create jobs would be disingenuous.  The working class is just as responsible as anyone for building a stronger economy.

Moreover, working people are the ones who create jobs and generate America's wealth. Most sane economists agree that the top 2 percent of the richest Americans do not spend their money by creating jobs.  It means we are only creating windfall bonuses by not holding them to the same tax standard as the rest of America's citizens. It also causes an erosion of vital public services-- this has become the devil in the details when local governments try to balance local budgets.  By not adequately having a fair and equitable tax system, we deny all our residents, rich and poor, the necessary services they have come to rely upon.

A quick history lesson

When there is no check on the steady growth of corporate power or political corruption, we lose the balance and equality necessary for a functional democracy to exist. The rise of the Labor Movement in the 20th century and it's very existence built America's middle class and transformed our economy and infrastructure.

The Wagner Act was designed to protect workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively. Moreover, the Wagner Act wasn’t just about protecting workers’ rights. It was about protecting the economy against another depression by providing a counterbalance to the greed and malfeasance of unscrupulous employers and wealthy barons.

When Congress implemented the NLRB in 1935, it chipped away at irresponsible corporate power. And, Congress wanted to give unions power to act as a stabilizer to this corporate lawlessness and authority. It also must be stated that to this day, the House GOP has never given up the fight to weaken the NLRB's ability to affect change. Unions give workers the right of due process and equal protection under employment law-- something all patriotic Americans should admire and value. Collective bargaining is seen as an obstacle for lawmakers who want to privatize public services.

As Congress saw it back then, public policy allowed employers to amass unchecked power as they wreaked havoc on American families. Workers, on the other hand, were mere individuals who lacked the collective influence to bargain as equals with their employers. The result was the rich got richer while wages and working conditions declined. Again-- it led to poverty, crime, lawlessness, economic collapse and social unrest. Congress had to intervene to save the economy. Looking back, haven't we learned anything from our own sordid history?

Most economists agree that the top 2 percent of the richest folks who the Republicans are going to bat for do not spend this money or create jobs with it. It means this is simply a tax giveaway and doesn't have any stimulative effect on the economy.

Democracy and demand creates jobs, not the wealthy

The idea that wealthy people and corporations create more jobs when paying less in taxes is a claim that has superficial appeal, premised on the idea that, because businesses employ workers, they would employ more workers if they had more money. However, this simple calculus fails to acknowledge that employment is driven by consumer demand, not the amount of money in an executive's pocket or on a business' balance sheet. A business or entrepreneur will not use profits to add more workers unless there is consumer or business demand for their product or service.

Regardless of your income, all Americans are supposed to contribute to our national productivity, expect equal opportunity and should demand equal rights at our workplaces. And there are social benefits we are all entitled to-- like health care, a living wage and Social Security when we get older. These are inalienable rights, not programs for the privileged few who can afford them. Moreover, we should all proportionally share in the responsibility to cover the costs of our democracy. That is obviously not happening in 2011.

Taxes are the lifeblood of our democracy

According to Citizens for Tax Justice, overall taxes in the U.S. are the third lowest among industrialized countries (only Turkey and Mexico are lower). Corporate taxes are also lower than in most other industrial nations.

Additionally, there are huge inequities in our tax codes-- and they favor the rich. People at the bottom of the income ladder, the lowest 20 percent, pay almost twice as much of their income in state and local taxes as the top 1 percent. The poor pay 11 percent, the rich just 6 percent.

A functioning democracy should be designed to have a progressive tax structure that is in proportion to the means and ability to pay for the vital services we demand and can not do by ourselves as individuals.

Conservatives and Republicans cast American tax-payers as victims. They moan that we are just taxpayers bearing up under the obligation to pay into federal and state coffers. Some are stoic in the face of the inevitability of “death and taxes,” while others burn with resentment like the Tea Party folks. We dread the task of hauling out that folder of receipts and calculating just how much of our income we have to hand over to Uncle Sam.

All of these GOP stories reflect a complete miscalculation to the reality of our tax paradigm. What is missing from this picture is any sense of a larger meaning in the act of paying taxes. Most other things that require effort and sacrifice-- family, service, charity, and volunteerism-- have virtuous, or at least redeeming, meaning associated with them. That meaning helps us face life’s challenges with a sense of a larger purpose that makes these acts worth the investment.

The GOP stories they tell about paying taxes reflect a chronic disconnection from our role as citizens; they are devoid of any civic meaning. The real meaning of taxes pay for the things that underpin our public life and connect us to one another through our communities, our states, our country and our collective future.

When we lose sight of this, taxes are seen as merely depriving us of our individual property. If, on the other hand, we see ourselves as stewards of a common good, as citizen managers of public systems and structures that secure the city, state and country we live in, then taxes are our contribution to something much more important than our individual being.

We all need to be telling a new and meaningful story about our tax responsibilities that celebrates the concrete opportunity it offers “we the people.” The problem is, without the public systems and structures that taxes pay for, the America we know and love would cease to exist.

The final analysis

Looking at raw statistics, it is easy to see that there is no correlation between reducing personal income tax rates for the wealthy and employment levels. The marginal tax rate for the wealthiest members of society hovered above 90 percent for the twenty years between 1944 and 1963, with unemployment during this period as low as 1.2 percent and a high of 6.8 percent. From 1965 to 1981, taxes for the upper income bracket were lowered to 70 percent, with unemployment as low as 3.6 percent and as high as 7.7 percent; from 1982 to 1986, the wealthy were taxed at 50 percent, with unemployment only reaching a low of 7 percent and a high of 9.7 percent. Taxes continued dropping through the 1980s and 1990s, with the top tax rate dropping to 31 percent in 1992, but with very little positive impact on job growth.

In 1993, unemployment was at 6.9 percent, the tax rate for the wealthiest increased to 39.6 percent, and unemployment actually decreased to 4 percent by 2000. From 2003 through today, thanks to the Bush tax cuts, the rich have been taxed at 35 percent, and unemployment is now approaching 10 percent.

Jobs are created by supply and demand. When there is a demand for something and a middle-class that has the resources to pay for it-- jobs are created.  Rich people and multi-national corporations only create new jobs when the demand for their goods or services increases. Supply and demand has nothing to do with how much taxes businesses and CEO's pay or don't pay-- neither does it change their ability to employ more people.

The fact is that Wall Street is humming right now, CEO pay is through the roof and Fortune 500 companies are seeing record growth.  Meanwhile, at the same time, America has the largest income inequality since 1928; we are gutting vital public services like libraries and education; our bridges, roads, dams and infrastructure are crumbling right before our very eyes; local governments are defunding necessary life-saving services for the most vulnerable in our communities.  Our poverty rates in suburban, rural and urban areas continue to rise and the level of human suffering has become unspeakable.  Our GOP lawmakers are making it easy for multi-national corporations to take the wealth that the American working-class generates and invest those tax dollars in emerging middle-class markets in Brazil, India and China-- not in your backyard.  Is this the America we all know and love?

So, the next time you hear this argument being perpetrated by anyone, from any walk of life, feel free to interject some truth in our public discourse.

Simply put, the American people are hungry for our leaders to restore a vision for a national future founded on the premise that social justice and material prosperity are not competing values-- that they can co-exist and are necessary to each other for a healthy, sustainable and growing economy. The sooner we recognize that, the better.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Rochester, N.Y. -- You would have to be living under a rock not to know that average Americans are now turning against the Republicans-- and they are indeed panicking.

The House GOP has not produced one piece of legislation that has improved the quality of life for working Americans. They rode into Congress with the promise of job creation and have turned their backs on the unemployed and under-employed. Conversely, they have only been fighting a culture war—attacking unions, middle-class folk, people of color, women and the poor.

But rather than face the voters and take responsibility for their actions, Republican state legislators in New York and across the country are hijacking democracy by pushing bills that would instantly disenfranchise millions of Americans before the next general election.

The very worst of these bills is in Wisconsin, where Republicans are threatening the voting rights of nearly a million people-- including almost 170,000 seniors, 200,000 students and young people, and potentially more than half of all African-American and Hispanic residents.

The state Assembly has approved a plan that would require Wisconsin residents to show a photo ID when they vote and extend the period of time between registration and Election Day.

One GOP bill even has a special clause that targets these voters for harassment at the polls during the Wisconsin recalls.

They’re rushing to do this now because Republicans know their time is running out. Generic ballot polling now gives Democrats a 5 percent lead in the next election, a massive turnaround from how people voted in 2010.

Republicans finally let slip the radical agenda they kept hidden during the last campaign: their scheme to dismantle Medicare, their all-out war on working families, and their education cuts that would devastate our schools-- just to name a few. The GOP is only beholden to corporate giants, big oil and pharma.  The master plan includes privatizing vital public services.  They positively do not have the best interest of average working Americans at heart and now everyone knows it.

Now, even political moderates and independents are recoiling in outrage. Progressives and Democrats are getting fired up. And, Republicans are convinced they can cling to power if they disenfranchise enough progressive-leaning voters and keep spinning the truth. That will not happen as long as we have the first amendment, people power and an educated electorate.



photo:  Ove Overmyer
Rochester, N.Y.-- America's 24/7 news cycle has delivered some good news recently, both here at home and abroad. Never mind the obvious stuff concerning the death of OBL and major advancements in the war on terror.

The overshadowed news that's not being told is that America gained 244,000 new jobs last month.

That’s a quarter million workers back on the job; a quarter million unemployment checks that taxpayers won’t have to pay for; and a quarter million families pulled back from the brink of ruin.

And that’s great news for the entire country. Consider these three indicators released by the U.S. Department of Labor:

1)  This was the best individual month of job creation since before the recession.
2)  It was also the 14th straight month of private-sector job growth, with over 800,000 new jobs created so far in 2011.
3)  Best of all, many of the states hardest-hit by the recession are coming back the strongest. Manufacturing centers like Michigan and Ohio are seeing their best job growth since 1999.

Despite this glimmer of hope, why are House Republicans still trying to short-circuit the recovery by attacking the elderly, working families and the poor? They have done absolutely zero when it comes to job creation.  The only thing they have been focusing on is fighting a culture war-- taking away a women's right to choose, devaluing LGBT Americans, and pummeling the poor and working class at every possible opportunity.

Democrat Kathy Hochul speaks
before the Rochester Labor Council
on May 12, 2011.
photo:  Bess Watts
Our local NY 26th Congressional District race gets national attention

The House Majority PAC is the second major Democratic group to devote resources to this race that has now grabbed national attention.  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee made a $250,000 ad buy earlier this week. Republican groups, seeing Conservative candidate Jane Corwin's lead shrink, have the upper hand in the money race to help her so far.  They have spent upwards of $1 million now in independent buys, including $650,000 in ad time that Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS has reserved and a $400,000 ad buy from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which they upped from $265,000 just recently. 

The NY 26th Congressional District has a top-heavy Republican registration and this race should of been a forgone conclusion.  However, the GOP are now running scared-- they are spending national money because this race has become a referendum on Medicare and the Ryan Plan.  The GOP has an exploding cigar on its hands. 

As of today, the race is a three-way toss up with Corwin, Democrat Kathy Hochul and perennial candidate Jack Davis.  Davis, who is running as a Tea Party endorsed candidate, is  proving once again he is completely unelectable regardless of where he positions himself on the political continuum.  The special election to fill the seat vacated by the disgraced, shirtless Buffalo area businessman Chris Lee is May 24.

Anyway you look at it, the GOP has a losing strategy here.  What the Republicans are proposing just doesn’t make economic sense and the voters know it.  The Ryan Plan, which is supported by all the GOP Representatives and GOP congressional candidates like Corwin is simply a "dead plan walking." 

And while we're at it, Corwin's television ads that try to appeal to upstate western New York's "working families" has reached the pinnacle of hypocrisy.  They are offensive.  How stupid does her campaign operatives think western New York voters are?  

Image property of JaneCorwin.org.  Thank you Ian of BuffaloBeast.Com!
It’s bad enough that House Republicans voted to destroy Medicare and replace it with an inadequate voucher scheme-- something that Corwin says she definitely supports.  Corwin also supports giving tax breaks to the wealthy while the most vulnerable will no doubt suffer.  And now, non-partisan analysts have also revealed that this GOP budget plan actually increases the national debt by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years-- and it still forces seniors to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket and potentially cuts off health care coverage completely for millions of Americans.

GOP plan attacks the working-class

No economy can function without a strong, vibrant middle-class. When you deny the elderly and working families a living wage, you eliminate any spending power by the majority of Americans. Job security and freedom from workplace injustice make it possible for families to plan for the future and improve their lives. It's what drives the American economy. Our president basically has us on the right course folks, and we need to support him. If you need some motivation to do so, just consider the GOP alternative.

In state after state, right-of-center legislators seem to have one primary goal in mind since they took over the state houses and the House of Representatives-- to take away people’s rights in the workplace, privatize public services and pay back their big donors by giving away our tax dollars to the filthy rich. That is the same wealth that has been generated by middle-class working folk and the money that was guaranteed to us when we bought into that thing called the American Dream.

As for taxes, having to pay them is no longer a sure thing either, especially if you're a corporate giant like General Electric, with a thousand employees in its tax department, skilled in creative accounting. You'll recall recent reports that although GE made profits last year of $5.1 billion in the United States and $14.2 billion worldwide they would pay not a penny of federal income tax. Chalk it up to billions of dollar of losses at GE Capital during the financial meltdown and a government tax break that allows companies to avoid paying U.S. taxes on profits made overseas while "actively financing" different kinds of deals.

Republicans insist the oil companies need our taxpayer subsidies. So Big Oil hammers you twice-- once at the pump, and then again in your paycheck. This corporate welfare has got to end. Now.

And, it gets worse. In 2009, Exxon-Mobil didn't pay any taxes either, and last year, they had worldwide profits of $30.46 billion. You know who else didn't pay taxes?  Neither did Bank of America or Chevron or Boeing. According to a report last week from the office of the New York City Public Advocate, in 2009, the five companies, including GE, received a total of $3.7 billion in federal tax benefits.

People power

photo:  Ove Overmyer
If our job growth continues like it has, Republicans will lose more credibility-- as if they had any in the first place.  When more Americans figure out that the Obama's health care initiative is empowering citizens rather than big pharma and the mega-providers hellbent on profit alone, they will understand that we are in better hands.  Americans are starting to realize that the GOP plan is a disastrous one for 98 percent of us-- and one that doesn't discriminate by political party affiliation.  But that probably won’t stop them-- facts don't matter much to these talking heads when it's all said and done.  The only thing that can stop this carnival ride is you-- only you and your efforts can right this ship heading straight for 2012.

Again, the only thing that will beat the corporate-backed GOP is people power at the ballot box and a focused, well organized grassroots political action effort. That's you and me folks. The future of our economy and our working families depend on it. So, let's get to work. Are you in?

Cartoon courtesy of DenverPost.Com

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Civil rights advocates rally in Albany on May 9 in support of legislation
that will improve the lives of LGBT working families in New York State.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
Albany, N.Y. -- On May 9, nearly a 1,200 LGBT advocates and union allies gathered in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center underneath the state house in Albany for what Rochester area Assemblyman Harry Bronson called "a historic day."

Activists from every corner of the state, the North Country, Buffalo and from as far away as Montauk Pt. on Long Island traveled to the state capital in order to lobby legislators for LGBT issues like transgender rights, health services, and, of course marriage equality. The event was sponsored by Empire State Pride Agenda, one of the more influential civil rights groups operating in New York State.

When the Empire State Pride Agenda organized the first rally for gay rights in 1991, marchers were scorned, taunted, chased and verbally assaulted.

What a far cry from Monday's rally, where the organizers seamlessly transitioned activists from one venue to the next, all the while keeping them informed and well fed. Trying to predict the needs of the attendees, ESPA offered workshops, box lunches, coffee, beverages, snacks, sign language interpreters and a "Children's Activity Center," which highlighted toys and an offstage curtained area for tots.  One ESPA organizer told the Voice Reporter, "We've come along way, baby."

The labor community had a strong
showing at Equality and Justice Day
May 9 in Albany, N.Y.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
New York's labor unions support Marriage Equality

Just last week, RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum forwarded an invite to several high profile New Yorkers to attend an upcoming breakfast meeting he’s hosting with NYS AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes.  At the meeting, labor leaders will strategize and discuss this legislative fight over same-sex marriage and other LGBT workplace rights issues.  The event is being held on May 11 in Manhattan.  Appelbaum is an outspoken and influential advocate for working families and marriage equality in New York-- he came out in a very public fashion back in June of 2009.

Marriage cannot be seen as just an issue for the LGBT community," RWDSU chief Stuart Appelbaum told reporters on April 25.  "It is a union issue as well, as demonstrated by the support that has been shown by New York's labor movement. And most importantly it is an issue of importance for anybody who cares about justice. Justice is indivisible. You cannot be for justice for some, and not be for justice for all."

Morning session filled with welcoming speeches

Bronson, who was the first elected official to address the crowd in the convention center, got right to the point. He said, "You can almost feel the winds of victory in the air as more and more people understand our families and support full civil rights of working families. Your support of and advocacy of our civil rights is so vital for our families’ struggle. We will remember this day in the future as the catalyst that started marriage equality for gays and lesbians in New York State."

State representatives like Buffalo area Assembly member Sam Hoyt followed Bronson on stage, as well as Manhattan Sen. Tom Duane and Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy.

"Marriage equality is a basic issue of civil rights," Duffy told a cheering crowd. "Nobody in this state should ever question or underestimate Governor Cuomo's commitment to marriage equality. The governor has made marriage equality one of his top three legislative issues this year."

Duffy acknowledged the difficulties that a marriage bill would face in the Senate, but voiced optimism. "You have Cuomo's full support, you have my full support," he said. "We have a little fight ahead, but there's something special about this year."

The last speaker of the morning session was Sen. Tom Duane who was emotional as ever. He told attendees that New Yorkers were betrayed by the legislature before (2009) and supporters should not take anything for granted. He added, “We are on the right side of history, and we will not be stopped."

Statewide rally stirs attendees

Union members from UUP rally in Albany for
Equality and Justice Day sponsored by the Empire
State Pride Agenda.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
Monday's demonstrators chanted, "What do we want? Marriage! GENDA! When do we want it? Now!" over and over as organizers filed speaker after speaker to the podium at the West Capital Park around mid-day.  Unions present at the rally included CSEA, AFSCME, UUP, SEIU, NYSUT and various other labor groups.

At the outdoor rally, temperatures got a little heated as organizers engaged the boisterous crowd. "The message being delivered to Albany today is clear-- LGBT New Yorkers and their allies have come to demand equality and justice," said Ross D. Levi, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. "We want to move forward on marriage equality, fighting transgender discrimination in the workplace and reducing the health care disparities faced by LGBT New Yorkers."

GENDA gets the attention it deserves

But as the hundreds of advocates rallied on the lawn, GENDA took a more prominent role right along side Marriage Equality this year. GENDA is the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would protect transgender people in employment, housing, services and public accommodations. Many New Yorkers do not realize that it is currently legal to deny transgender people these basic rights.

According to a poll by the Empire State Pride Agenda, a full 78 percent of New Yorkers support the passage of such a bill. And 74 percent of transgender people report that they experience harassment or abuse on the job.

"Don't let the sentence end on marriage," pleaded Dru Levasseur a transgender rights activist with Lambda Legal. "Ever since the first shoe was thrown at Stonewall, trans people have been at the forefront of fighting discrimination that all LGBT people face."

Assemblyman Danny O"Donnell
at Albany rally on May 9, 2011.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
Other rally speakers included Miss New York, Claire Buffie, the Rev. Stacie Latimer, as well as Assembly members Teresa Sayward, Matt Titone and Daniel O'Donnell.

O'Donnell told The Voice Reporter that he didn't understand why Gov. Cuomo didn't introduce the marriage bill on Equality and Justice Day. O'Donnell, who is the Assembly sponsor of the bill, seemed impatient and perplexed about the Cuomo no-show and openly shared his displeasure with the bill timeline. "Today should have been the day we introduced this bill," he said.

What's next?

The marriage bill has not yet been introduced this year, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to submit one, for reasons aides refuse to explain when asked by The Voice Reporter. Marriage Equality has had the support of the last three governors, and has passed the Assembly three times.

And yesterday, Cuomo's allies at the Democratic State Committee began using a robo-call of Cuomo urging the passage of the same-sex marriage bill.

While Democratic defeats in last year's elections that gave Republicans control of the state Senate have made things less certain, the bill is expected to have enough support in the Assembly. Its path in the Senate is less clear: advocates are careful not to say they have the votes for its passage, unlike 2009 when, despite their confidence, it failed 38-24.

Friday, May 6, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- It might have taken a near-historic recession for many Americans to notice our country's rapidly rising levels of income inequality, but the gap between rich and poor has finally gone mainstream, with bloggers, economists and policymakers of all stripes spouting theories on why we should or shouldn't care.

And while the debate continues over cause and consequence, that central claim has proven unshakable: the void between the wealth of America's richest and poorest is widening, and few signs show any indication of it slowing anytime soon.

ThinkProgress reports that income inequality in the United States equals that of Uganda, and is worse than in countries like Pakistan, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast.

Statistics from the CIA Factbook show that income inequality is also higher in the United States today than at any other time since the Great Depression.

Meanwhile, the American Human Development Index recently reported that, partially due to income inequality and the decline of unionization in America, there is now a 30-year gap in life expectancy between the deep South and New England.

photo:  Ove Overmyer
"Economists are not sure how to fully explain the growing inequality in America," according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. In an article published in Vanity Fair, he said, "One big part of the reason we have so much inequality is that the top 1 percent want it that way."

While it's unclear whether Stiglitz is correct about the intentions of the super-wealthy, what's certain is that the rich have emerged from the rubble of the last 30 years as indisputable winners.

Since 1980, middle-class wages have largely stagnated and lower-class wages have declined, while the upper echelons of American society have seen a windfall.

study by University of California, Berkeley professor Emmanuel Saez found that, as of 2007, the top decile of American earners pulled in 49.7 percent of total wages, a level that's "higher than any other year since 1917."

Not all economists agree income inequality is a bad thing. Perhaps, argues George Mason professor of economics Tyler Cowen, inequality is less an indication of struggling workers at the bottom than the result of a small section of brilliant businessmen at the top. This type of thinking is exactly what eats away at the core of who we are as a nation.

Here are some simple truths:

•Income inequality is extreme and increasing: The top 1 percent of Americans control 23.5 percent of all the country's income, the highest share controlled by the top 1 percent since 1928.

•The U.S. is exceptionally unequal: The U.S. ranks #3 among all the advanced economies in the amount of income inequality.

•The poverty rate is extremely high: The U.S. poverty rate, according to the new National Academy of Science index, is estimated at 15.8 percent. Only one advanced economy, Mexico, has a higher relative poverty rate.

We at the Voice Reporter believe the root cause of income inequality, viewed in the most general terms, is extreme human ingenuity, albeit of a perverse amoral kind.  No economy will grow or survive without a strong middle-class.  That is why it is so hard for us to wrap our minds around how some, not all, with unspeakable wealth and their complicit puppet lawmakers could care less about the welfare of others in a time of immeasurable suffering.  Individual materialism and wealth now heavily outweigh any sense of civic self sacrifice. 

How can lawmakers continue to promote legislation to benefit 2 percent of Americans?  Just yesterday, House Republicans unanimously voted down a motion from Democrats to consider legislation to end subsidies to oil companies, making sure they will continue to receive our tax payer dollars above and beyond as long as they are in office.  To say that "This is just the way things are," or "that's capitalism," is just not acceptable nor is it a reasonable answer.  That's not the America we know.  The America we know has its sights set on the greater good.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


CSEA Local 828 Unit 7402
President Tom Pollizi
photo:  Ove Overmyer
MCC Names 2011 Chancellor's Award Recipients 

Rochester, N.Y.-- Congratulations to CSEA Monroe County Local 828 Unit 7402 President Tom Pollizi who was selected to receive the 2011 MCC Chancellor’s Award for excellence in service. Tom is a Driver/Mover in the Shipping and Receiving Department at the Brighton Campus.

The selection criteria for each of these awards are rigorous and exacting. It ensures that only those University faculty, professional and classified staff who have consistently demonstrated superlative performance within and beyond their position receive these awards. Recipients of these awards serve as a source of great pride to MCC and inspiration for us all.

Mr. Pollizi will be formally recognized at the Employee Recognition Ceremony on June 1st.


Rochester, N.Y.-- The CSEA Monroe County Local 828 Executive Board and the Local 828 Scholarship Committee are pleased to announce the winners of the 2011 George M. Growney Scholarship Awards.

Since 1993, CSEA Local 828 has awarded over $100,000.00 in scholarship prize money to assist our area's working families. In 1994, the Monroe County Employees Unit 7400, the largest Unit in the Local, created their own scholarship program and has distributed more than $20,000.00.  CSEA Local 828 is comprised of 21 Units throughout the Monroe County area, and represents nearly 3,500 workers.  

And new this year, the City of Rochester Library Workers Unit 7420 created the Jane McManus Scholarship fund, however no appplicants met the minimum standard qualifications. This $200 annual award will roll over to 2012.

Mr. Growney was a long time labor leader and activist who was employed as a probation officer with Monroe County. He served as local president for nearly two decades before his retirement in 1995. George had a passion for kids to succeed, and would be proud that his union brothers and sisters have carried on his legacy of love and commitment to youth. George M. Growney died on August 10, 1997. The scholarship program was named in his honor the following year after his death.

The scholarship is open to graduating high school seniors whose parents and caregivers are members or agency shop fee payers of Monroe County Local 828.

The scholarship committee worked very hard to review many detailed entries again this year. Scholarships applicants were judged on academic achievement, a written essay, financial need and potential.

This year's award recipients will be honored at the Annual Scholarship Dinner on May 16, 5:30 at the Webster Highway Department, Webster, N.Y.  For more information about this event, please call Barb at 585.328.5250.

Here are the winners:

  click on document for a larger view.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Rochester, N.Y. -- This might be what some would call painting a picture with broad brush strokes, but nonetheless here we go. If you want to find specific budget number crunching, you won't see it here in this commentary.  Not yet, anyway.  That is reserved for later, after Mayor Richards’ budget plan is revealed on May 20. But what you will find here, however, are some thoughts that we all need to keep in mind when we finally decide how we appropriate city tax payer dollars in the years to come.

We all understand that we have to spend less because of reduced revenue, but it's how we exact our priorities and how we decide to use our resources wisely becomes the bigger question when trying to balance local budgets.

First of all, the City of Rochester budget comes in at around 465.3 million. That is not chump change. Approximately 3.5 million dollars goes to funding the 10 city branch libraries-- that is less than 2 percent of the total budget. For every New York state tax dollar spent on libraries, residents get back nearly 13 dollars of services. Look it up here.

The Highland Branch Library circulates
nearly 94,000 library materials a year.
photo:  courtesy RPL
Now let's take the Highland Branch Library for example: operating costs come in around $265,000 a fiscal year. According to ROC DOC's, that amount equals the yearly salary and benefits of two top confidential/management employees for the City of Rochester. The Highland Branch Library, which has been proposed for possible closure, touches and embraces tens of thousands of residents each year-- as does all the neighborhood libraries. So, I will now publicly ask, where are our priorities? Does this approach satisfy the greater good of the community?

A community philosophy and a couple of questions

When local governments talk of municipal budget decisions, we are truly following a community philosophy-- it's about what's true, personal responsibility, inclusion, opportunity and a fair shake at the American Dream.

For every citizen who cares about our great city-- the message could not be clearer. The big question is what kind of city do we want to live in? Will my tax dollars provide me and my family with a fair return on my investment? Above all, what I really want is for me and my family to live in a city that we can believe in.

Another question that needs to be addressed is how the progressive moral system defines the democratic ideals of America and our city. What were the principles it was founded on and how do those ideals apply to specific issues we as taxpayers care about? Our collective moral vision, when applied to the budget, is more general with everyone who shares that same moral vision of what we call American democracy.

In the first place, should our budget priorities contradict the moral vision of why our city is one of the best mid-size cities in America? I think not.

Today, our real economic issues are jobs, economic recovery and finding a remedy for the inadequate distribution of wealth and services that has created a fragmented class structure here in Rochester. It also wouldn't hurt to create an environment whereby citizens could contribute to the property tax rolls by owning their own business or buying a home. Our city will not survive without a strong, vibrant middle-class. The real issues here are existential questions: what is Rochester at heart and what will we become?

Our collective vision for Rochester should shape the budget discussion

In 2005, former mayor Bob Duffy laid out these moral principles as well as anyone ever has and roused our neighbors in support of his vision for OneCity. In his first term as Mayor, he focused on pragmatics and policy-- public safety, education and economic development. He was a huge literacy and library supporter too-- he knew how important our libraries were to the neighborhoods.

When it came to education, the attacks by his nay-sayers, to some degree, were moderately successful even though most residents thought mayoral control of RCSD would be a more pragmatic approach for an out-of-control school system. The lesson here is that morality at the general level beats out policy at the particular level. The reason is our residents identify themselves simply as moral beings, not policy wonks.

All politics is moral. Political leaders put forth proposals on the assumption that their proposals are the right thing to do. Obviously, progressives and radical conservatives have very different beliefs when it comes to understanding what is right and what is wrong and how to spend our tax dollars.

The main idea here is this: The history of our democracy and our city is based on empathy-- that is, citizens caring about each other and acting on that care; taking responsibility not just for themselves but for their families, communities and their city. The role of government is to carry out this principle in three ways: personal and material protections, public services and individual empowerment.

Our taxes help us do together what we cannot do alone

To do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves is at the heart of civility and life here in Rochester. It's what I also call pride and patriotism. The American belief ... that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security... that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard time or bad luck, crippling illness or a layoff, it may strike any one of us at any time. This is what our government is for—to assist our fellow citizens in times of crisis. This is what we should be spending our 465 million dollars on. This is why our safety-nets called Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid should always prevail.

The fact is, our New York State tax codes and loopholes have been favoring those with substantial wealth-- the tax system is highly unfair and that needs to change.
Kids play at the Flint St.
Recreation playground.
photo:  City of Rochester
The greatness of our city will be measured by us carrying out such moral commitments as public safety with our fire and police departments, access to our community libraries, clean streets and the right of a child to get a great education and have an after school program to nourish their spirit.

We need to rethink those ideals every time we assess our budget priorities-- this is a time when other cities and municipalities across America are defunding and attacking immigrants, the poor, elderly, the disabled, labor unions, people of color, the environment and everything up and in-between. That's not us-- that's not Rochester, N.Y.

Moral arguments can, and should, always be given for all budget policies at all levels of government on all issues we care about: the environment, marriage equality, education, health care, civil rights, family planning, organizing rights, voting rights, immigration, and so forth.

It is only by repetition of these moral principles that the citizenry begins to understand how all these ideas fit together as realizations of the same basic democratic principles I believe our forefathers intended as an edict for future generations to live by.

The very idea of taxes

What is missing from this painted picture is any sense of a larger meaning in the act of paying taxes. Most other things that require effort and sacrifice-- family, service, charity, and volunteerism-- have virtuous, or at least redeeming, meaning associated with them. That meaning helps us face life’s challenges with a sense of a larger purpose that makes these acts worth the sacrifice.

The stories we tell about why we pay taxes reflect a chronic disconnection from our role as citizens; they are devoid of any civic meaning. The real meaning of taxes pays for the things that underpin our public life and connect us to one another through our communities, our states and our country.

The Rochester I know

The Rochester I know is generous and compassionate; a city of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the city and county we want and for the future we share. We are the city that is home to civil rights icons-- and if anything, we honor diversity, fairness and inclusion.

Marchers walk down East Main Street in downtown
Rochester on September 6, 2010 for the Labor Day Parade.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
Our local universities lead the world in medical and scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives. It has been said that Rochester is home to the best library and park systems in the nation. We are one of the most giving cities in the world. We consistently rank as one of the best places to live, work and raise a family.

And, this all happens because we understand that the shared sacrifices we make as individual tax payers pay for the services we so desperately want for our families and for our neighborhoods. This is who we are. This is the Rochester I know. We don’t have to choose between a future of rising debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our city.

To meet our fiscal budget challenges, sure, we will need to make reforms and we will eventually get it done. But, at whose expense? Indeed, all city residents will need to make sacrifices-- all of us have been doing that for many years so this should not come as a shock to anyone who is paying attention. But we do not have to sacrifice the Rochester we believe in.

In conclusion, once you close a branch library or reduce hours of operation at a recreation center-- there is no going back. Because library advocacy efforts can't be measured through financial success, and our results are often so frustratingly unquantifiable, libraries will remain an easy target.

Rochester takes pride in its public services. Let's not turn our back on those citizens who need us most-- immigrants, women, children, the elderly, people of color and the disenfranchised. Let's keep moving in the right direction and not stray from the course that former Mayor Bob Duffy created for us-- OneCity Rochester. That’s the city I believe in.  That's the city I know we can become.

Finally, I know what you are thinking and the answer is no.  I never drink Kool-Aid.

-Ove Overmyer
The author is CSEA President, City of Rochester Library Workers Local 828 Unit 7420.  The opinions expressed above are the authors exclusively and do not reflect the views of CSEA as an organization.